Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just doing my part... make sure JK doesn't go hungry :-\

Months ago, I ordered the 7th and final Harry Potter book from MegaOnlineBookstore. Safe in the knowledge that it would be delivered into my hands (or, mailbox) without any further effort on my part.

Last night, on the eve of its in-store release, the wife, kid and I went to see the 5th movie in the series. Afterwards, I mentioned to the kid that maybe it would be fun to go to the MegaBookstore across the street and see what the line-standing HPNerds were up to (both of us being HPNerds, ourselves). And if the scene weren't crazy, maybe we could stand in line ourselves and pick up a copy of the book a bit earlier than the local Pony Express would deliver the next day. Since we're both clamoring to read it, having two copies won't be excessive. And after we're done with them, I figured I'd donate the spare to a local library or other worthy cause. The wife (having met us at the movie theater) had her own car and thus her own means of escape, was able to opt out of this little nerd-adventure.

We stopped by and found a few hundred people lined up out of the store, along the front of the building, and all the way down the side of the parking lot. If I had to guess, I'd say there were at least 300 people there. The MegaBookstore employee I spoke with said that if we got in line at that moment (roughly 10pm), we would "probably" get a book, and "probably" get outta there by 3am. This was clearly unacceptable. It served only to instill in my kid a need to find an "out of the way bookstore where we might actually be able to get a copy close to midnight". I wasn't sure I was ready to go on a quest for a book which would be delivered to me 12 hours hence. But on the drive home, there was an accident blocking the road, which all but forced us onto the highway away from home, and towards far-away bookstores.

Taking that as a sign, we headed west, trying to think of out of the way bookstores where we might have a chance of scoring a book, and being home by sunrise. Before long, I remembered seeing an in-store display advertising the book at a local MegaGroceryStore. Thinking to myself "nobody is gonna go to a grocery store to buy a book", we decided to scope it out. When we arrived, we found various kid-friendly HP gonigs-on. When I asked an employee where the line began, they replied that there were four checkout lanes cordoned-off downstairs where the lines would be forming. We went down and found in two of the three lanes, a single HPNerd waiting. This left two empty lines. We took up residence in one and began our wait. It was now 10:30pm.

Over the course of the next hour and half, the lines formed and grew. By the time midnight drew near near, all four checkout lines snaked towards the door, and beyond. I'd say about 100 people were waiting. Maybe 150. As the final moments ticked down, the store manager appeared and explained that they had 800 copies of the book, so there was no danger of running out. He also said that the store was able to get 5 copies of the extra-special-fancy-boxed edition. These would be available on a first come first serve basis. What can I say. A sucker and his money are soon parted (twice!). The pressure was immense. The first person in each of the other three lines excitedly snatched up copies. When it came time for a yea or nay from me, with all the eyes of the other HPNerd line-standers enviously upon me, I caved. The price of the "normal" edition was ~$20. The price of the fancy edition was ~$45. What the hell. I already have a "normal" edition on order. Why not go for the gold!

Being one of the firsts in line attracted a bit of attention. At one point, we were approached by Tammi Marcoullier, a reporter for the "Loudoun Extra" supplemental section to the Washington Post. She asked to take our photo (me, my kid, and the 12 and 10 year old girls who were in line just behind us). ended up running a little piece on the event, quoting each of us.

After making our purchase at exactly 12:01am, my kid bee-lined for the exit, making her the first to emerge from the store with the coveted book (sparking cheers from the rest of the HPNerds in line). It was pretty fun. We got back into the truck, and drove all the way home with the passenger-side reading light on. She started reading at about 12:03am. She finally went to sleep at about 10am today. After a solid 10 hours of reading, she's about 50% of the way through.

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